Architectural Digest (UAE) - - Contents -

Rob­bie An­to­nio is bring­ing the high-end pre­fab prop­erty rev­o­lu­tion to Dubai

it­tingly, Rob­bie An­to­nio, the $1 bil­lion dol­lar con­struc­tion start-up CEO, has not one but two ex­tra­or­di­nary homes in Manila. The first is a biomor­phic art-gallery-cum-pri­vate-res­i­dence dubbed Stealth in the Philip­pines’ cap­i­tal’s most ex­clu­sive neigh­bour­hood. It’s as if a space­ship has landed among the grand vil­las, an oth­er­worldly, matte black con­fec­tion dreamt up by the iconic Dutch ar­chi­tect Rem Kool­haas, who was per­suaded to take his first res­i­den­tial com­mis­sion in 15 years by the strength of An­to­nio’s vi­sion. That, and the fact the en­tre­pre­neur is as charm­ing as he is per­sis­tent, and clearly has a pas­sion for de­sign.

“I wanted the art to pop, and usu­ally ev­ery gallery has white walls,” says An­to­nio by way of ex­pla­na­tion of the un­usu­ally dark palette. “Ev­ery­thing here is matte black. It’s my favourite colour. In the bath­room, even the soap and the tis­sue paper is black.”

As the name sug­gests, An­to­nio’s home is an in­tensely pri­vate space (all the doors have bio­met­ric sen­sors) yet it has a gallery-like feel, thank to the cav­ernous, shad­owy in­te­rior and the mu­seum-qual­ity com­mis­sions it houses. His as­tound­ing art col­lec­tion is eclec­tic and colour­ful, with works by Damien Hirst, Fran­cis Ba­con and Paul McCarthy pop­ping out of the gloom. There is noth­ing cosy or con­ven­tional about this house – there are few win­dows, for one thing; aper­tures in the ceil­ing pierce de­fined spa­ces with light – and there is some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary to gaze at with ev­ery turn. “I didn’t want it to look like this is a house,” says An­to­nio, “That was the point. I didn’t want to en­ter and see a sofa, a TV, a din­ing room. If I could, I wouldn’t even have chairs. I wanted it to be very dis­tressed and Bru­tal­ist. I didn’t want an el­e­gant man­sion. That to me is so cliché. I just wanted the ar­chi­tec­ture to stand out and to make peo­ple think.”

An­to­nio is in the busi­ness of reimag­in­ing what a home can be, us­ing the great­est de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture tal­ents such as Zaha Ha­did and Jean Nou­vel to el­e­vate the con­cept of pre-fab­ri­cated homes and turn it into some­thing fab­u­lous and de­sir­able. The ethos be­hind his com­pany Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted em­bod­ies demo­cratic de­sign at its best. It spe­cialises in the con­struc­tion of pre­fab­ri­cated, made-to-or­der homes that are con­structed at a frac­tion of the cost of houses built us­ing tra­di­tional con­struc­tion meth­ods.“The goal is to be pro­lific,” he says, “The mis­sion state­ment is to the ul­ti­mate mar­ket­place for de­signer, mod­u­lar homes at an ac­ces­si­ble price.”

Dot­ted through­out his own cav­ernous home there are mono­lithic pieces that An­to­nio has com­mis­sioned from lead­ing de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects, in­clud­ing Kengo Kuma, David Ad­jaye, Tadao Ando and Daniel Libe­skind. Sev­eral of the works are pav­il­ions which were cre­ated for the launch of Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted at De­sign Mi­ami in De­cem­ber 2015.

An­other novel fea­ture is a ro­tat­ing bar, which Kool­haas in­te­grated into the house at An­to­nio’s re­quest; it was a scaled-down ver­sion of a much big­ger, un­re­alised am­bi­tion.

“At one point, I wanted the en­tire house to ro­tate - imag­ine a dif­fer­ent fa­cade ev­ery week - but it proved to be im­pos­si­ble,” An­to­nio ex­plains, “I wanted four sides that changed through­out the month.”

His am­bi­tions for Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted won’t be scaled back and it is grow­ing at a pace that has even taken him by sur­prise. “I al­ways planned and hoped that it would be big, but now I think it’s go­ing to be big­ger than I could ever have imag­ined,” he says, “We launched not even three years ago and there are now over 600 peo­ple in the com­pany.”

A year after Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted was founded, it had a Se­ries B fund­ing round which raised the com­pany’s val­u­a­tion to over $1bn, mak­ing it the first ‘uni­corn’ start-up from the Philip­pines, and al­low­ing the it to es­tab­lish a foot­print in a num­ber of global mar­kets, in­clud­ing Italy, Ja­pan and the UAE.

“Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted is go­ing to be big­ger than I could ever have imag­ined”

To say that An­to­nio is a man of ac­tion would be an un­der­state­ment; he gets ‘five or six hours of sleep a night’ and wakes up at around 5.30am, works at least six days a week, and signed deals in over 20 coun­tries last year, with a pro­jected gross mar­ket value of $9 bil­lion. Sport helps him to man­age stress. An­to­nio tries to work out twice a day, but rarely uses the swim­ming pool or the Yves Klein Blue squash court at Stealth. In­stead, he prefers cir­cuit train­ing be­cause ‘it is fast-paced but I can still take breaks to look at my phone and work’.

There’s also a whole room ded­i­cated to a Ma­rina Abramovic in­stal­la­tion which im­pels vis­i­tors to stop and con­tem­plate by ly­ing on a bed. The door locks for 60 min­utes. “I’ve never, ever used it,” says An­to­nio. It’s hard to imag­ine him stay­ing still for that long. Our in­ter­view is en­tirely con­ducted dur­ing a walk­ing tour of the house.“I can’t stay still for 60 sec­onds,” he quips. Just then, he pauses from our in­ter­view and steals a glance at his phone. “I’ve had 115 What­sApps in the time we’ve been talk­ing….I had vis­i­tors from Brazil on Thurs­day, yes­ter­day from Ger­many, to­day from Dubai.”

An­to­nio trav­els to Dubai reg­u­larly him­self. An of­fice there is in the works, and Rev­o­lu­tion Precrafted signed a $3.2bn deal with lux­ury de­vel­oper Seven Tides to de­sign, sup­ply and in­stall twoand three-bed­room con­do­minium apart­ments and vil­las on Dubai’s The World is­lands.

The chal­lenge for An­to­nio and his team is to re­alise the de­signs at an af­ford­able price; al­though the Dubai de­vel­op­ment will be more at the lux­ury end of the scale, oth­ers are em­i­nently ac­ces­si­ble and the likes of Jean Nou­vel are not used to de­liv­er­ing com­plete build­ings for as lit­tle as $20,000.

“It takes six months of value en­gi­neer­ing these things and there’s a lot of back and forth with their teams,” he says. “One of the houses took a year to get right. It has to be vi­able. Some of our homes are su­per es­o­teric. I would live in them but very few peo­ple want to live in some­thing that’s that far re­moved from the norm. But they’re like cool art pieces and I want them to be part of the vi­sion. I love those su­per far-out de­signs be­cause I think it re­ally pushes you to live dif­fer­ently.”

That said, An­to­nio’s sec­ond Manila home is more con­ven­tional than Stealth. The plush pent­house apart­ment in the city’s Trump Tower over­looks the gleam­ing cityscape, much of which is his fam­ily legacy.

Cen­tury Prop­er­ties, the real-es­tate com­pany founded by his fa­ther, is re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing much of Manila’s prime real es­tate in­clud­ing branded res­i­dences from the likes of Ar­mani and Ver­sace. But An­to­nio’s sights are set far be­yond his home­town. He founded his first com­pany in New York right after busi­ness school. “I wanted to do some­thing on my own, com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of that,” he ex­plains, “I’m not a ‘lo­cal’ per­son. I like global think­ing. We’ve signed deals in 27 mar­kets now, most of them this year. It’s in­tense, but we’re go­ing after more.” rev­o­lu­tion­

“I’m not a lo­cal per­son. I like global think­ing.

We have signed deals

in 27 mar­kets”


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